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Lebanon businesses appear uneven on enforcement of city’s indoor mask mandate

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 9/11/2021 10:12:56 PM
Modified: 9/11/2021 10:12:57 PM

WEST LEBANON — Lebanon-area businesses recently had to begin complying with the city’s reinstated ordinance requiring people in stores and public buildings. But a stroll around the shopping plazas of West Lebanon revealed uneven compliance and conflicting messaging over the policy.

Stores throughout the city are responding in widely different ways, with some posting signs informing customers they must wear a mask inside the store, others saying it is optional and several with no sign posted at all.

At Upper Valley Plaza on Route 12A, the Gap outlet and GameStop each have signs on their doors stating that face masks are required, but next door cosmetics store Sally Beauty’s sign said “masks appreciated.” Maurices, a women’s apparel store next to Sally Beauty, has no sign at all.

A few steps farther along the sidewalk, department store Kohl’s doesn’t have a sign stating the store’s policy in regard to face masks, but next door Famous Footwear requires customers to wear masks while the shoe store’s adjacent neighbor, Olympia Sports, has a sign stating, “Per state and CDC guidelines masks are optional for customers and employees.”

“People are very confused,” Kayla Jennison, a cashier at TJ Maxx in the former Kmart Plaza, said as she exited the store one afternoon last week.

TJ Maxx doesn’t have a sign at the entrance to inform customers what is the store’s policy but Jennison said the store’s policy is “if they are not wearing a mask I have to let them know it is now required again and I can provide one if they don’t have one.”

Lebanon City Manager Shaun Mulholland said he’s not surprised that shoppers might be confused about the mask ordinance given that a lot of people are coming to the West Lebanon commercial strip from elsewhere who “legitimately don’t know” about the rule.

He said the police are distributing “mask required” signs for stores that want them to post on doors “although for some stores corporate headquarters does not allow any other signs than their own.”

Given that the city had only a few days to implement the mask mandate following the City Council vote adopting the ordinance, Mulholland said compliance appears to be pretty good. “The word will get around,” he said.

Hannah Pierce certainly hopes so. As assistant manager at Lebanon Pet & Aquarium Center said it puts a lot of stress on store staff to point out to people who are not wearing face masks that the city again requires. She estimates that 50% of customers are not wearing face masks when they come through the door despite prominent signs that say masks are required.

“They come in, look at us, and keep going,” Pierce said.

It’s even gotten to the point where Pierce doesn’t feel asking them to don a mask will do much good, noting that one of the exemptions to wearing a mask in the city’s rules is for a medical condition.

“If they are not wearing a face mask we just assume it’s because of a medical condition and let it go at that,” she said. “Otherwise I’d lose half my customers.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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